Mots and Maxims
Witty remarks, truths and concepts.
Quotes and Doodads
Posted on: April 16, 2022
Myth shows human life arising out of chaos, cannibalism, and incest. Will it go back the way it came?
– Mason Cooley
I was listening to NPR the other day, and they were talking about…
Soylent Green. You know: Charlton Heston’s bloody hand in the air with his desperate cry, “Soylent Green is people!”
That movie. Yeah, one of my favorites, too.
The program’s panel was talking about how when that movie premiered in 1973, it was predicting the world would run out of food and use people—cannibalism—to feed the living in 2022.
More to the point, Soylent Green shows us a world of overcrowded and polluted streets, people demonstrating about social inequality, and how climate change causes it all.
Sound a little familiar?
We may not be in such dire straits as prophesied in the movie, but there are disturbing parallels to today.
Did you know the world’s soil is degrading at an increasing rate? Approximately one-third of the world’s soil is essentially useless. What happens if soil yields little food?
That’s the thing about science-fiction. Its timing may not be accurate…but in many cases, in due time the fiction often becomes science-reality.
Check this out! soylent.com
One of their taglines is “Let us take a few things off your plate.”
This is scary stuff, my friends.
Posted on: December 2, 2021
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela
Back in the day when I was an English/Language-Arts teacher, I started the school year—day two—with the Ideals of Chivalry. (They are or will be discussed at length on the Chivalry page in this website.) Ten days, each devoted to one of the Ideals; I gave the students definitions and quotations; we had deep discussions. That night, they had to write an essay about what that Ideal meant to them. Next day, next Ideal. Ten days, ten essays. Then I taught them about the standard three-paragraph essay (remember bing-bang-bongo?), and we revisited the Ideals and rewrote some of those essays. Many students chose courage as one of the most important Ideals of the ten.
The Mandela quote was one of the ones I presented to them. We talked about how important it is to acknowledge fear, even embrace it—take that negative energy and change it into positive energy. It’s something you have to learn to do in your heart, I’d tell them. It’s not easy to do. Even I … to this day … have difficulty with that transference of energy. Sometimes I don’t succeed.
There was another quote I’d sometimes give them:
Fear is the food of courage.
I attributed it to General George S. Patton, but to be honest, I cannot find the quote anywhere. Nevertheless, I think this one helps a little more. In order to eat something, you have to want it. You have to put that fear on a plate, nuke it in the microwave, put that plate of fear on the table in front of you, pick up that knife and fork, cut off a piece, put that bitter fear in your mouth, and eat it. Repeat. Clear the plate.
Courage and fear are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.
I bring this up because I’ve been feeling a little fear lately.
Before I get to that, let me share something else I’d tell my students. Something about writing. You see, I wasn’t so much an English/Language-Arts teacher as I was a writing teacher. One of the things I’d tell my students is that you have to care about what you put on the page, for every piece of writing is a glimpse into your soul. Every word is like a drop of blood straight from the heart. You have an obligation to ensure that piece of writing reflects exactly what you want the world to see about who and what you are.
Which brings me to that creeping little fear.
I’m about to reveal my heart and soul to the world. The Dark Stirs will be released soon, and after it the subsequent books. It’s like I’m ripping open my chest and saying to the world, “Here it is! My heart! And while you’re at it, take a hard look into my soul.”
So … yeah … I’m going to sit at that table, carve me up that gristly fear, and chew on it. I’m going to eat it and like it.
Posted on: October 28, 2021
Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
Chaos breeds life, when order breeds habit.
– Henry Brooks Adams
Back in the 1980s, I stumbled across a NOVA presentation on PBS entitled The Strange New Science of Chaos, and it changed my life. Chaos games. Fractals. Chaos and order mixed within the human body? But it was the notion of a hidden order within systems of chaos that fascinated me. The idea that no matter how chaotic something became, one only needed to look deeply within it (and use some sophisticated mathematics and computer computation) to find a hidden order. The Order of Chaos. I started to investigate this myself.
I’m a quotation man, as many of my past students can attest. In my investigation of Chaos (and it’s still ongoing—and I refer to the science of Chaos with a capital “C”), I came across the quotes above by Henry Brooks Adams. They’ve always resonated with me. Most of us have been brought up believing chaos is a bad thing. In chaos there is no control, and we humans want to control everything. Nature, however, is not like that. Adams is saying chaos—unpredictability, turbulence—is the overriding rule of life. Chaos creates. Chaos makes life interesting.
Much can be said for literature. Without conflict—without chaos—there would be no story.
The Dark Matter Series derives its conflict, its chaos, from the First Conflict: when Lucifer questioned the wisdom of God and made war in Heaven. From this, all chaos in the multiverse has arisen. God knew that. Humans need chaos to live. We need that conflict to define us … to give meaning to our lives. The Word of God, come to us through Christ, is a kind of order meant to help us control the chaos. And His Son Christ knows we cannot live up to that Word. But we need to work hard to use the Word to help us look within the chaos around us to find that hidden order.
Humanity needs both order and chaos to live a full life.
Posted on: October 5, 2021
Words in Context
What a chimera then is man. What a novelty!
What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy.
Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth;
depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error:
the pride and refuse of the universe.
– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, no. 131
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!
– William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Danes, Act 2, scene 2
I loved using these quotes back in my teaching days. I’d bring these in to illustrate isolated quotations without context. On the surface as presented above—and out of context—the quotes look like mirror opposites.
Before I go further, I broke Pascal’s quote into lines that kind of match Shakespeare. Pascal’s is originally written as prose, whilst Shakespeare is … Shakespeare.
As I was saying, these appear as ironic opposites, as if Pascal is mocking Shakespeare. In context, however, they are equal. This is the danger of using quotations—and by extension evidence—in isolation without understanding the context. Pascal, in context, is saying exactly what you see: humanity is the delineation of all the negatives in the quote. Shakespeare, in context, is saying the same thing! One needs to read the entire scene—mayhap, all of the play to this point—to understand Hamlet is being sarcastic when he says these words to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. His uncle had killed his father, the king, and married his mother. The Prince is a tad upset over it, you can imagine. He has a jaundiced view of humanity at this moment in the play—okay, the entire play.
We need to be careful how we use quotes or soundbites or memes. It’s important to do your homework and understand context before using other people’s words.
I’ve been called a snowflake recently. A lot of snowflakes can shut down a city or county or state—or half a country. And did you know buttercups are a poisonous creeping weed? Buttercup poisoning causes severe blistering of the mouth and bloody diarrhea.
Know your context.